Earlier this month the Rady School and von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the Jacobs School of Engineering mystartupXX program directors traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the winners of the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund national grant. During the event, mystartupXX was recognized as one of the top accelerators in the nation and SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke extensively about mystartupXX’s “startup” story in her welcome speech (read her blog post here).
In light of the program’s most recent accomplishment we sat down with Lada Rasochova, one of the founders of mystartupXX, to learn more about the meaning behind mystartupXX and its mission “to promote female students interested in entrepreneurship and help them to pursue their dreams of starting innovative, scalable, technology-driven companies.”
What does it mean for you (as a founder of mystartupXX) and for the future of the program to win the SBA grant and be recognized nationally?
When mystartupXX was formed we received some initial funding from the NCIIA (now called VentureWell) but this additional funding and recognition is essential for building the program. The SBA award will enable us to expand the program 300% and support many more students with ideas and entrepreneurial aspirations.
What distinguishes mystartupXX from other accelerator programs?
Two things set mystartupXX apart. First, we focus on women. Second, we focus on students. We are not aware of any other university program in the United States specifically designed for female MBA students.
What are some of the challenges women face founding startups and how does mystartupXX help members overcome these challenges?
Funding from VC’s is a huge challenge for women because only approximately four percent of VC’s are female, which inherently gives males an advantage when receiving funding. The mystartupXX program helps connect female students with potential investors to get their foot in the door and prepares them for investor meetings. Similarly, mentorship and networking are challenges because of the small pool of successful females who have started and run a tech-based company. We at mystartupXX provide mentorship for our students and the program itself is creating an ever-growing community of female founders to support and network with one another.
Can you share some success stories from mystartupXX members?
We have two success stories that stand out:
Ashley van Zeeland is full-time CEO and co-founder of Cypher Genomics, a leading genome informatics company offering proprietary genome annotation software that can rapidly turn the 6 billion letters of the human genome into meaningful information for use by researchers and clinicians. After graduating from mystartuppXX, the company was admitted to San Diego incubator EvoNexus and raised over a million in series A funding. Cypher Genomics is currently generating revenue after releasing its first product.
Sarah Esper is CTO and co-founder of CodeSpells, a 3D immersive, interactive video game designed to teach Java programming to children ages eight and above. After receiving extraordinary results from classroom testing, the CodeSpells team has been admitted to the national NSF I-Corps Team and awarded a $50,000 grant to develop a viable business model and deploy their technology.
What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs interested in joining mystartupXX in the future?
One word: Apply! Apply even if you don’t have a solid idea or team yet. If you aren’t accepted your first time, you may be accepted the next year. You lose nothing from applying but you gain nothing from not applying.